Friday, August 30, 2013

Nuxeo 5.7 Fast-Track Version

Our partner Nuxeo has been working hard over the past few months to put the final touches on Nuxeo 5.7. Recently, they’ve surprised us with version with version 5.7.1, which improves the synchronization functionalities on the desktop (Nuxeo Drive) and another functionality.


Nuxeo Drive is, doubtless, one of the main attractions for Nuxeo 5.7 According to what some of our technical staff have told us, Nuxeo Drive is easy to configure and use. Users can enjoy real-time synchronization between the repository and the content on the local desktop drives. Nuxeo Drive works with all of Nuxeo’s modules (Document Management, Digital Asset Management), but Nuxeo hasn’t limited itself to creating a version of Dropbox for its users. Nuxeo Drive synchronizes its documents with version control and conflict resolution, and it also synchronizes metadata.


Some of the new functionalities for Nuxeo 5.7 include:

  • Saved searches can now be shared
  • Importing from CSV (a functionality Athento already offers).
  • Monitoring from the platform using Yammer metrics.
  • Improvements and better flexibility in the authentication system.
  • Nuxeo Mobile (for iOS or Android).

This version is going to evolve very quickly, so we’ll be watching out for all the changes and new releases of the product to keep you informed.
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Methods for automatic sorting of scanned documents

For those people who are looking for a solution that allows them to automate the classification, storage and/or routing of scanned documents, it’s important to understand the methods of document classification, some of which currently include:


  • Symbolic classification: This is the most primitive method. It’s called “symbolic” because, in reality, someone has had to identify the document before it’s uploaded to the capture system or document manager. The most obvious example of this method is the use of bar codes. Capture software or document management software reads this bar code and then directs the document to be with a document type, such as a “Service Contract” – but someone will have had to previously generate the bar code which indicates that this document belongs to that document type. Some ERPs provide the functionality to generate bar codes within documents themselves, but what’s certain is that businesses don’t just work with documents that they themselves create. For the remaining document types, this requires a fair amount of manual labor.


  • Analysis of the graphical structure of the document: This method is based on the classification of documents according to their appearance. It requires the comparison of a document with a model (or models) learned by the system. In one way, this classification works much like a human would by trying to determine what a document “looks” like to confirm what type of document it is. For document identification to work, patterns are defined and the system is trained to learn to recognize them and be more precise in recognizing them. Many of these algorithms share patterns of colors, black and white tones, document layout, etc. 


  • Analysis of the graphic structure of the document, together with key words: Together with the techniques described in the previous paragraph, this method allows users to look for key words which would be indicative of a document type. For example: after analyzing the graphical structure, the system assigns a high probability that the document is an invoice, which makes it look for words like “Invoice” or “Tax Number”. This method adds a higher degree of precision for data than you would get by simply comparing the structure of the document. All of these mechanisms are based on statistical algorithms that compare the probability that a document would belong to a specific type.


  • Analysis and text processing: This involves text analysis to find terms, the meanings of which help to describe the document that contains them. Decision trees, support vector machines, Bayesian algorithms, “closest neighbor” techniques, etc., are some of the methods used to extract relevant information from documents. These methods define classification schemata that are based on the idea that documents can be represented in vectors of characteristics (a group of characteristics that define the document and its relative importance) according to the words that appear in them. Each element within a vector represents the importance or relative weight of a characteristic of a document. Characteristics are simply words or groups of words taken from a group of documents which belong to a category. Using probability-based methods, the idea is to fit documents within classification schemata, in agreement with the information provided in the vectors.


There isn’t one specific solution which solves all of the problems with document classification. Powerful software classification applications combine several of these methods to achieve greater precision when it’s time to classify documents. Anyone who’s thinking of getting advanced document capture software should learn as much as possible about what mechanisms the system uses, given that the easier the mechanisms are that the software uses, the more human help the software will need to do the job.


Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it


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Monday, August 26, 2013

Talking about Alternatives to SharePoint

What we have here is a topic that, put plainly, generates controversy. It’s a point of contention, no doubt, because even though it has more than seven million users each year, if you search Google Trends (an application that measures internet searches for interest over time) for “SharePoint alternatives”, you’ll see that, since 2011, that interest hasn’t come down below 50 points.



It looks like we’re all divided on the topic. We suppliers in the ECM sector find ourselves either having to align ourselves with SharePoint, or having to declare war on them, and users seem to find themselves in the same spot.


So are there alternatives to SharePoint, or not? 

Well, for those of you who have reached this blog looking for answers to that question, I’d say yes, but it depends on what we’re talking about. SharePoint isn’t just an Enterprise Content Management platform; neither it is just support for social networks. The problem is that SharePoint is many things at once; and if we talk about alternatives, the answers change, depending on the aspect of SharePoint that we dislike.

 
If we’re looking for an alternative in the widest possible sense, I’d say that Alfresco is the solution that’s closest to SharePoint. Alfresco’s web content services permit the acceptable creation of web material; what’s more, they permit integration with pure CMSs like Drupal and Liferay, too. But if we only want to improve this part of SharePoint, you probably don’t have to stop working with SharePoint – you just need to find integration alternatives. In this post, for example, there are some interesting options to complement SharePoint in Content Management Systems. Thanks to “CMIS power” these integrations are becoming increasingly common. 


If we’re speaking strictly about Enterprise Content Management, Alfresco is a perfectly considerable option and it’s more cost-friendly…although, as we’ve mentioned in our “The two main alternatives to SharePoint: Nuxeo and Alfresco” post, there are also other options that are pretty powerful and much more affordable than Alfresco is.


Finally, if we’re just talking about a simple collaboration tool, this is probably where SharePoint has the greatest advantage, not just for its own characteristics, but also for its strategic plays, such as the acquisition of Yammer and for its compatibility with other fantastic Microsoft tools, such as IM an Expert, which give real meaning to the value of social networks in the work place. Alfresco can provide you with collaboration tools that are more focused on document management (integration with office software suites such as Microsoft Office, or other online collaboration tools for documents, such as Google Drive), and with web content management (forums, wikis, FAQs, comments, notifications, feeds, blogs, etc.) Nuxeo also gives your similar features. Here, we’d have to think about the way in which we’d want an alternative for collaboration in SharePoint; at best, maybe all that’s needed is an Enterprise Social Networking platform, of which there are many and some of which, like Elgg, are open-source (although Elgg, specifically, provides a lot of advantages, customizing it can be a pain in the neck.)


NOTE: With these kinds of posts, I always want to make clear that Athento isn’t a participant in this debate: we’re neither pro- nor anti-SharePoint. The value of Athento comes from understanding documents, which is not the business that SharePoint is in. We dedicate ourselves to extracting information of value from documents by using smart document capture, which is nothing more than an added value for any business, whether that business uses SharePoint or not.



Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it



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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Document Management Glossary, Letter F

Better late than never, the old saying goes! That’s why we’re starting again with the task of sharing our knowledge, and bringing you the latest entry in our Document Management Glossary.

Letter A. Letter B. Letter C. Letter D. Letter E.

F.

File
A file, no matter what form it takes, is simply a collection of data that can be accessed or recovered. Files are normally saved in automated and non-automated versions.
By “non-automated” files, we means those which have to be organized and classified by people, without the aid of computers.

Non-automated files tend to have exponential growth, which turns into big physical spaces being taken up and where information is at the mercy of physical elements, like fire, or simply the passing of time, which means that documents are at risk of deteriorating and even being lost. That's why lots of companies start digitization or imaging projects.

Technological advances have given people and businesses electronic files, which can contain the same information as a paper file, except that the information is codified in the language understood by computers.
These automated files were created to solve two serious problems presented by paper files: occupation of physical space and the deterioration of documentation. Businesses and governments could store all the documentation they had in files in their computers. That said, as time went on, this type of traditional automatic file has revealed other difficulties. With enormous volumes of documentation, finding one particular document becomes a difficult task that takes up a lot of time. Additionally, traditional electronic systems don’t give enough backing to the information contained in computers, which means that many businesses have lost documentation because of failures in the hard disks of their computers.
Luckily, the world has advanced a bit since then; and as time went on, business had Electronic Document Managers at their disposal. These didn’t just solve the previously-described problems; they also provided a drastic reduction in the time needed to recover documents and significant improvements in the security and sharing of documents. 




File System
This is simply the way in which collections of files are called, organized and stored, in order to be opened later. Normally, within computers, files are organized in hierarchical structures (such as trees) by the user.


Format
The format is the physical structure that a document contains. A document can be contained on a piece of paper, but it can also be in a series of bits which can only be accessed by using a computer. We can use the word “support”, as well, in place of “format”. That way, we can talk of “paper format” or “electronic support”.


(Document) Flows:
We can define a document flow as the process which a document is normally submitted to, once it’s been received (or generated) inside a business. For example, a sales department might have a document called “Sales Proposal” might initiate another document called “Order,” which, in turn, causes the creation of “Invoice.” It can also refer to the process that a document goes through – the hands it passes through once it’s been created or generated. This concept is strongly connected to the concept of Work Flows.


(Work) Flows:
Tasks and documents are usually closely related, either because a document helps to create a task, or because a document is, in and of itself, the support or the proof that a certain task has been carried out. Tasks also form part
of the processes that have specific aims. Work flows seek to automate these business processes in which the documents, tasks and information move from one person in a team to the next, in order to complete a specific action. To automate these processes, clear rules which avoid confusion should be established, and the rules should also provide clarity regarding responsibilities and procederes.


DOWNLOADSWe explain how Athento helped Crisa manage technical documents.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Document Capture Software: The least you should ask for is…

Not so long ago, we were talking about what a 'normal' document management system is. Right, now it’s time to talk about document capture applications. What’s the minimum functionality that a capture application should give you? 


The objective of document capture software

Before fully going into the topic of functionality, it’s necessary to go back over the basics about document capture, what it is and what it’s for.

Within a system that manages content and business documents, or a company’s ECM system (capture, management, storage, preservation and distribution), capture clearly represents the input. It’s the way in which documents and content get into the system. Without capture, a system, as such, cannot grow. 


According to this definition, capture means uploading a document to an ECM platform. That’s what it is. That functionality in and of itself doesn’t offer any challenges to a document manager or ECM platform. The existence of capture software comes to life when we begin to speak of having to put a large quantity of documents inside an ECM system, no matter what their format – paper, electronic – is. 


Okay, now that we know that, essentially, the goal of document capture software is to send large quantities of documents to a document management system, what’s the minimum that the system should give us? 


1. Mailroom 
We’re used to thinking of capture as a synonym of digitization or document imaging, but this last one forms only one part of capture. Documents in electronic format are, these days, as abundant as paper-based documents were years ago, and we can’t ask users to spend hours and hours managing them (or, worse, users don’t manage them.).  I recommend following some good practices to achieve documents born digital can stay digital. However, normally, if capture software doesn’t offer Mailroom, a company’s employees have to download an attached file every time they receive it and then upload it to the document manager themselves. Why not just get rid of the previous steps and upload attached documents to the system automatically? Athento, for example, offers:

  • To set up an e-mail account where attached documents can be stored automatically within the document management suystem (without having to click on any buttons, as the system automatically monitors the mail server). The most important feature of this module is that permits unlinking of work flows. Say, for example, that an attached document is an expense request; the system would automatically send it to someone in the Accounting department. This is just one example: flows can be customized according to the needs of each business.

2. Connection with a scanner
Now we’ve come to the point that everyone thinks of when they think of capture – digitization. As a basic point, I should be able to connect a scanner (or a number of them) to the ECM platform so that the scanned documents can be uploaded in electronic format to the ECM platform, where someone can organize them afterwards, or give me the possibility to scan one particular document from the platform. The point here is that, you should at least be able to send all of the scanned content directly to the ECM software.

Right: so that’s very basic, and it leaves a lot of work to the user. Having to manually organize tons of scanned documents isn’t much fun. A solution that doesn’t only give us the most basic things should be able to identify our documents and store them where we want them to be stored, or send them to the people who we want to go over them.

3. Indexing and entering metadata
A basic system should give us the ability to add information or metadata about the captured documents. At the least, it should give us OCR functionality to index the content of those documents and give us the possibility to manually complete, at the least, the Dublin Core metadata. Of course, if we have a lot of documents to capture, registering the metadata of each document manually could be torture. An advanced capture solution lets us extract data from documents automatically and save it along with the documents.


4. Exporting documents and metadata
As we said at the beginning of this post, capture software exists due to the need to feed document and content management systems. It’s necessary, then that both documents in electronic format and the data that we get from the capture process both be sent to the ECM – without connection or compatibility between the capture software and the ECM system, it’s no use. 



In my opinion, these four functionalities in their most basic forms constitute capture software, and everything else that’s added to them only have the goal of eliminating any kind of manual labor to be carried out by users. The aim of capture, though, can be done through these four functionalities.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Trends in Document Capture

Without a doubt, document capture has become a fashionable topic. Why? It might mean the difference for businesses between exploiting information from their documents (savings) or continuing to accumulate paper and other content, losing the capability to react (costs).

However, where’s the market for this type of solutions going? What are we going to see in the next few years?

  • Mobile capture: Being able to take a photo of a document and upload it to your document management system or ecm platform for it to be processed would make the work of millions of workers who work away from their offices easier. And we’re not just talking about the sales force. Think, for example, of any person who’s got to travel for work and turn in receipts for every expense incurred. I’m sure that most of you are familiar with having lost the receipt for a meal, a taxi or a hotel room at some point. What if we could simply take a photo of that receipt or invoice, and our businesses would immediately receive proof of the payment we’d just made? For those who work with purchase orders, delivery receipts, etc., wouldn’t that make everything a whole lot easier?
  • Vertical solutions: There are industries which are very paper-intensive and which don’t seem to have any future limits of when they stop working that way. We’re thinking of government bodies, hospitals, law offices, the justice system, etc. Paper forms part of their daily processes, and digitalization is the only solution to keep these documents accessible and available. These types of organizations generally manage an array of documents which are specific to their sectors (hospitals, for example, deal in prescriptions, but it’s highly unlikely that a law firm would have documents of that type.) Organizations like these need document capture tools that are adapted and “finely-tuned” to work with their specific document types.
  • Better “out-of-the-box” accuracy:  No one doubts that capture represents a turning point for the business that incorporates it into the way it works. The heart of the matter really lies in just how much capture really solves clients’ problems, and that is directed related to how accurately the solution covers the particular needs a client has. Are applications able to work at a 100% precision rate, or do we have to keep performing manual tasks like correcting extracted data? According to techniques used in recognition and processing, the accuracy rate keeps going up; what people are concerned about now is getting the system to be effective enough as soon as it’s put into action. This isn’t easy, for sure, and it’s putting more demand on technology. Developers are then having to continue to try new technology that increases the accuracy rate. Among these new technologies, we keep seeing more depth in histogram analysis, use of semantics, etc. 


Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it


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Monday, August 19, 2013

How can I create digital documents that stay digital?

These days, most of the documents that we produce are born in a digital format. We don’t hand-write letters anymore, to say nothing of invoices or receipts. We use our computers to process almost all of the documents that we work with. Problem is, even if documents are created in a digital format, that doesn’t mean that they’ll stay that way.

Here’s an example: Yesterday, we placed an order for some corporate materials. They sent me the proposal via e-mail, but then asked me to send back a signed and sealed copy, just like in the old days. That meant that we had to print the document, put our company stamp on it, sign it, go back to digitizing it, and – finally! – send it by e-mail.

That doesn’t just happen with documents, however. Internal correspondence is sent on paper throughout organizations, invoices are still sent on paper, etc.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll describe some of the tools that our document management systems or ecm applications contain, thanks to which it’s possible to guarantee that if a document is created in digital format, it’s going to stay that way:

  • Integration with digital signatures: If the proposal, for example, had been signed with a signature in digital format, we would have saved ourselves the need to print and scan the document. 
  • Work flows: In the case of internal correspondence, for example, these can be sent using a simple work flow. They also allow us to generate e-mail notifications which warn us about what’s happening with the document and, in the history of the document, we can see if the correspondence has been looked at by that by the people we wanted to send it to. 
  • Integration with office software suites: One good way of avoiding unnecessary printing or mailings of documents by e-mail is to make use of integrations with office software packages like Microsoft Office or Open Office. That way, users can create documents from a program like Word and, when they save it, they save it directly to the document manager. From then on, the document is only shared with other users by using a link to the original document, without having to download it or send it by e-mail.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Athento Documentation Center

It’s been a summer full of new things. At the start of the week, we told you that we’re working on the 2.0 release of Athento. Today, we’re launching the Athento Document Center.

Even though it’s still under construction -- we’re working so that the community of developers and users can soon have all of the documentation they need at their disposal -- we’ve already got a whole bunch of information available which, we know, you’re going to find useful.

Here are some examples of what we’ve got:
You can register to comment, ask questions, rate the documentation, etc. Soon we’ll also have a question-and-answer section. :)

I’d like to encourage you to visit doc.athento.com and to give us all the feedback that you can.




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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How do businesses use file sharing or storage software?

File-sharing or storage applications as Box or Dropbox have been shown to solve some key issues when working on documents:

  • Accessibility.
  • Sharing and collaborative work.
  • The need to synchronize information when people use several devices.

In my opinion, the success of software as Dropbox, SugarSync or Google Drive lies in those key features.

There are, however, lots of things we don't know about how businesses use this kind of software: What are the main problems for users when working with these apps? Have companies completely embraced their usage? Do users think that these apps can replace ECM or Document Management software?

We're trying to get answers for these questions. That's why we're conducting a  study with users of these kind of platforms. It only will take about 20 seconds to complete the survey. At the end of the survey, we will design a awesome infographic and share it with respondents. Thanks for helping us with this. :)




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Monday, August 12, 2013

Athento Capture 2.0 is coming!!!

Over the past few months, we’ve been working to make Athento and all of its smart capture software features capable of understanding your documents. :) 

Our mission has been to get document capture to stop being a matter of code, as is the case with the best-known applications on the market, and to get you to enjoy all of the power of a solution that can work in enterprise environments, but with the simplicity that’s a characteristic of Athento

In the near future, we’ll have a trial version that you’ll be able to download and try. 

For the time being, I’ll be giving you little hints about all of the functionality of the new version.
Faceted Searchesin the Athento style 

For those of you who don’t know what a faceted search is, here’s a short explanation. A faceted search is a search in which you can link various different searches. For example:
  • The document was created by John Doe. 
  • The name of the document is “Document by John Doe” 
A faceted search allows us to conduct one single search which includes all of these criteria.

Since a faceted search is a search that can include a lot of metadata, the forms for this type of search are typically fairly long, since you’ve got to look in the form for the fields that you want to look for, etc. This makes for a search that takes more time.

With this version of Athento, we’ve left behind those endless forms with facets in order to include a simple form that will help you to include the fields you actually want to look for in the search.

Let’s watch it in action:


Alejandro López, our engineer, explains that this functionality was based on Visual Search by Samuel Clay, and why it’ll benefit users:

“With this new search feature, users will be able to resolve their searches more quickly and see the results in real time, without having to wait for a web page to load. Generally, this search function will simplify the search for documents which users send to the system to be processed.” 

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

White paper: Digitization and Smart Capture of Documents

Companies should start to understand that the power isn’t in the scanner. The real value of digitization doesn’t just lie in obtaining digital copies of documents. It lies in making the information contained in the documents accessible. That's why document imaging by itself isn’t of much use to businesses. All it does is replace physical storage for digital, leaving information in the documents inaccessible.

This problem can be solved by smart document capture software, which automates certain tasks such as data extraction and recognition of document types or document classification.

Today, we would like to share a whitepaper about this subject. This white paper will describe and explain how a smart document capture process works. You can download it for free. I hope you enjoy it. :-)


Discover how a smart document capture process works.download it


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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Yerbabuena Software: CMMI Certification

Not long ago, we received the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) certification, which is a certification process that helps to develop and improve processes. Businesses dedicated to developing software, such as Yerbabuena Software, undertake the CMMI certification process because it helps them reach maturity in the entire process of software development.

The best practices established by the CMMI module allow for the proper management, measurement and monitoring of the production of software.

To make Athento better every day, we’ve subjected ourselves to the official Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) process and we’ve been awarded the certification.

Congratulations to all of our colleagues who made it possible. :-)




Discover how Intelligent Document Management can help businesses and governments.descarga este contenido



Popular posts:
Comparing Document Capture Solutions (Athento, Kofax, Ephesoft etc.)
Document Management Success Case at BBVA, managing 7 million records.
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Monday, August 5, 2013

Resistance to change and Document Management: A question of trustworthiness

A couple of days ago, one of our readers asked me to elaborate on a previous post in which I explained why users have so much trouble getting used to a document management or an ECM system

Today, as it turns out, after speaking with a client, I got the information I needed to write a second part of that post.
Added to the main reason that I suggested in the previous post (that users don’t see the benefits of using the system), we also have to add another one that’s no less important: the users don’t trust the system. 

I went to see the client (a prominent firm in the construction/infrastructure industry) because I wanted the client to tell me a little bit more about how they use Athento and why it’s important for them. This person, who has considerable experience in the field of mega-structures and construction in general, told me: “Athento has won them over.” However, he also told me that, before starting the project, he was very concerned about a factor that was, for him, critical: If the program started to produce errors once it was put into place, no matter how small the glitch, the workers who had started to use it were going to give up using it very quickly because human beings, in the beginning, always find it easier to keep working as they always work, rather than changing. 

This was his point: If the trustworthiness of the system can’t be guaranteed, the project is doomed to failure. 

I believe that this client’s right. Using new software can be stressful for people because what we’re asking them to do is to change the way they work. And, if on top of everything else, the software doesn’t work in the way people want, we’re asking too much by hoping that they’re going to use it.

Developers are used to problems; users, no. 

What can we do to prevent users from ditching document management software, document capture software, Enterprise Content Management or any kind of software?

Key Point 1: Guarantee that we have the necessary infrastructure
Users don’t like waiting, or having to repeat a task various times “because the application got hung up”. These things don’t always depend on the software: things like downloading and uploading speeds, a lot of times, are more of an issue with hardware. Do we have the necessary infrastructure? Does the server that hosts my document management software have the required characteristics to handle the quantity of users who work with the system, or the work load to be carried out? Being certain that we’ve got the necessary infrastructure is fundamental, before users are put in contact with the software.

Key Point 2: Test, test, and test (again).
Before putting software into production, we have to demand extensive texting and that the software meets certain criteria of quality. It’s a good idea to begin by bringing together small groups of users to use the software. That way, if faults or defects in the way the system functions are discovered, those flaws can be fixed before the entire team goes into panic mode and the idea that “the application doesn’t work” takes hold. This if fundamental, especially when it comes to discrete development projects.

Key Point Three: Worry about the system’s stability and robustness.
Don’t take this lightly, and it is always recommendable – especially when we’re talking about key businesses processes – to hire a quick, efficient support system service that can convincingly resolve any problems with the software. Sometimes, as in the case with airlines, it’s likely that someone who has had a problem will come back to use the system if the problem has been solved in a satisfactory manner. This is more true than with someone who’s never had to confront a problem. 

I’d like to encourage you to comment and share your experiences and which formulas you think can be applied to prevent a failure in trust from system users.



Discover how Intelligent Document Management can help businesses and governments.descarga este contenido


Popular posts:
Comparing Document Capture Solutions (Athento, Kofax, Ephesoft etc.)
Document Management Success Case at BBVA, managing 7 million records.

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